Stop wasting your time out on busy roads where you have to deal with stoplights and traffic–there are much better places to run here in Ames. Whether you are looking for a nice pavement bike trail or dirt path in the woods, you can find it all with great scenery if you know where to look. Here are your best options for running in Ames and the surrounding areas.
Your first option is McFarland Park. This venue is a bit of a drive, about 8 miles North East of town, but the drive is worth it. It has a great combination of grass trails, gravel, and dirt paths. The constantly changing scenery and surface makes the fun fly by and keeps you entertained from beginning to end. No matter how far you are going, this park can accommodate your needs. The trail ends at 9 miles so in total, you can get up to 18 miles in round trip. If you’ve got a free Saturday and you need to get a nice long run in, this is the place to go.
Also out in that direction, yet not as far of a drive, is Nutty Woods. While this park isn’t quite as big it provides a great combination of dirt and wood-chip paths through the woods. A couple of loops will make a full length run. This park is somewhat hidden within a neighborhood so make sure you know where you are going before you try to find it. There is parking available off of 13th street.
For those runners who are really looking for a nice single track, forest trail, you may want to seek out the YMCA trails. They provide approximately a 5 mile loop through the woods. However, the entrance to these trails is hard to find unless you already know where they are. There are two entrances, behind the Veenker Golf course (you have to run through the golf course) or at the end of Scholl Road. There a small parking lot if you take the Scholl entrance.
Iowa State Cross Country Course
Another great option for a run is to hit the grass and run a couple loops on the cross country course. This course is right in town and provides a hilly two mile grass loop if you do the whole thing. Just a couple loops will get you pretty tired though so be sure to pace yourself. Either way, it is a nice change to the roads.
Another fan favorite is Ada Haden park out north of town. This park has nice pavement running and bike paths that circle a small lake. You will be sure to stay entertained as you will encounter many other people exercising or fishing and some wildlife. This park gets very busy on the weekends so if you are looking for a happening place, this is the park for you.
These are your best choices in actual designated parks however one place I failed to mention, which may in fact be my favorite place to run, is the gravel roads. Yes, I am talking about the hundreds of miles of gravel roads that can be found just a couple miles out of town. You may think running on gravel surrounded by farmland may get boring but I find it peaceful and relaxing. Also, no watch or GPS is necessary as the plots out there are all in 1 mile grids–just count every time you hit an intersection!
Changing up your running route keeps running fresh and makes it more fun. These are some great places to run but by no means should you feel limited to these. Just make sure to branch out rather than running around your own neighborhood every morning, I promise you won’t regret it!